Recently I came across Bronnie Ware's web site and her thoughtful article, “Regrets of the Dying”, in which she highlights her experiences with dying patients during her many years of working in palliative care.
Bronnie asked her patients if they had regrets about their lives or anything they would do differently looking back. Here are the five most common responses from these conversations:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I encourage you to read her article as she briefly explains each of the responses and how they might impact our lives.
What I find interesting in these responses, however, is what is missing. Where are the regrets about NOT making enough money, or NOT having a bigger house; or NOT looking young enough; or NOT achieving power and prestige? Isn’t that why we strive, strive, strive?
Our society is constantly sending us messages about these things and yet in the end the things we care the most about seem to be related more to quality of life than quantity. And yet many of us spend our precious life’s energy caring about the size of house we live in or the car we drive and the schools we attended as if these were the marks of a successful life.
This is not to ignore the benefits and importance of striving to be better in life. Acquiring wealth is not a bad thing either. It is just, well, uninteresting!
I am personally not interested in how much money you have or where you live or went to school. I don’t really care what you do for a living or where you have traveled in the world. It doesn’t really interest me that you may be a liar or a thief.
What does interests me is if you can find joy in this moment? Can you sit with another person’s pain and not try to fix it? Can you be happy? What really sustains you on the inside when life is not going as expected? Can you be your own person in spite of what others might think or say about you? And, can you put everything in your life aside to do the right thing for the children and our elders? These are some of the things I want to know about you and I hope you want to know about all those who are close to you.
My New Year’s wish for the world is that we all care more about each other than we do about acquiring more things. That we listen to each other instead of always having to be right. Our world is under attack we must start raising our expectations about what is possible and to remember the lessons from the dying.